3 Strategies To Achieve Patient Reactivation in 2022Posted: November 23, 2021 - By Health Dev
According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring new patients is over five times more expensive than retaining the ones you already have. Slight improvements in your retention rate can dramatically increase your profits. Recalling patients who haven’t returned for follow-up visits isn’t just good for your practice, however — it’s good for your patients, too.
Patients who actively participate in their own healthcare have lower health care costs and experience better overall health. Preventative and follow-up visits are markers in every measure of quality care. One of the overarching goals of Healthy People 2030 is to “Promote healthy development, healthy behaviors and well-being across all life stages.” This can only be accomplished in the context of a thriving patient-provider relationship.
Patient reactivation strategies have to go beyond just reminder calls from your office staff, however. The heart of patient retention involves empowering your patients with a sense of connection, ownership, and confidence. While there are no shortcuts to establishing meaningful relationships, there are tools you and your staff can use to make sure you’re effectively reaching your patients.
Automate the Process
The first step to retaining your patients is making sure their next appointment is scheduled before they leave your office. Unfortunately, an appointment card sitting at the bottom of a wallet or handbag isn’t enough to remind most people about a doctor’s appointment that was made months ago. By sending automated reminder calls, texts, or emails on a scheduled basis, you’re much more likely to see your patients return for their scheduled visits.
For many people, one reminder isn’t enough, either. Our society’s reliance on digital systems has raised an expectation of intentional redundancy in our daily lives. Set up your automated reminders to go out to your patients at intervals that will account for unexpected events. You may send out an email a week before a follow-up appointment so your patient can take time off work if needed. Then you may call the day before to confirm. Finally, a text several hours before their appointment may remind someone who’s going through their day on autopilot.
Tailor Reminders for Individual Patients
It’s also a good idea to customize your reminders based on what type of visit has been scheduled. You may want to send the first reminder a month before a yearly well visit but only two weeks before a quarterly follow-up visit for a chronic health issue.
While you may feel like sending a patient three automated reminders is overkill, having redundancy built into your patient retention plan will improve its dependability. People are multitasking more than ever and often need repeated reminders. Many of your patients may even rely on your office to remind them of their appointments and unconsciously think they don’t have to bother remembering.
Schedule Patients Before They Leave Your Office
Before you can remind a patient about an appointment, however, one has to be made. The front office should make it a priority to schedule appointments before your patients leave. While they mean well, patients who plan to call back later to schedule a follow-up often forget.
For patients who feel they need to consult their calendars before they make an appointment, have your staff suggest they go ahead and make an appointment and then call back if they need to change it. Another convenient option is to offer online appointment booking. If a patient can’t make an appointment, they can cancel and rebook when it’s convenient for them without having to call the office.
Simplify Appointment Confirmations
Once you’ve sent a reminder, make it as easy as possible for your patients to confirm their appointments. Two-way texting that allows your patients to respond to a text to confirm is a frictionless way to accomplish this. Making it as easy as possible for your patients to remember and confirm appointments will improve your retention rates.
Communicate the Way Your Patients Prefer
Although it’s a good practice to be able to communicate in as many different methods as possible, most people have one or two methods they prefer. As part of your paperwork for new patients, ask them their preferred method. If you’re sending a targeted email campaign to someone who rarely checks their email, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
Adjust to a Boom in Mobile Communication…
More people are accessing information in a mobile-only format than ever before. Reaching out to these people via personalized text links may be more effective than sending an email with the same information. Make it easy for your patients to access the information they need and they’re more likely to apply and benefit from it.
….With the Option for Traditional Scheduling Methods
Although society at large may be relying on mobile access to information, you may also have patients who want everything in print and prefer phone calls. Though rare, it’s important to accommodate these patients as well. When you’re communicating with your patients about their health, they’re often having to take in new information. You can make it easier for them to do that by giving it to them in a form that’s familiar and comfortable.
Health literate health care providers make it easier for patients to understand and navigate the healthcare system. One of the most important ways to do that is to make sure your patients can access and use information that’s relevant to their health. To provide appropriate patient-centered care, it’s important to meet your patients where they are and help move them along their patient journey by communicating in ways they understand.
Remind Your Patients Why Follow-up Matters
Most patients without a background in health care will struggle somewhat to understand and navigate the healthcare system. When you clearly communicate to your patients the benefits of following up in language that resonates with them, you’ll have more engaged patients. Some effective ways to ensure your patients know why keeping their appointments will benefit them include:
Provide Targeted Education
A patient with diabetes who clearly understands what their HbA1c test measures, why it’s important, and is taking measures to lower it will be looking forward to their follow-up appointment — and not likely to forget it. Engaged patients are invested in their health care. Providing the education your patients need when they are ready for it is critical to helping them take ownership of their health.
A newly diagnosed patient may suffer from information overload if given the same information you provide to someone who has been managing their condition for years. Setting up a patient portal where you can distribute diagnosis-specific education on an as-needed basis can provide your patients with information when they’re ready for it.
Patients often quickly forget information they’re given in your office. Worse yet, many remember it incorrectly. You can help prevent this by providing a central location for your patients to access information and be educated about their health conditions. Setting up an automated information campaign that targets patients based on their diagnosis and patient activation stage will keep you in mind and encourage your patients to keep their follow-up appointments.
Cast a wide net when it comes to patient education. You can use numerous platforms and formats to reach your patients. If you know your patient isn’t going to read a brochure, you can send them a link to a reputable YouTube video instead. A steady stream of easily digestible chunks of information is often more effective than large amounts of information given every few months at an office visit.
Involve Your Patients
Asking your patients to record information related to their health condition, such as blood pressure readings, is an excellent way to keep them engaged. By allowing them to update the information in their patient portal and providing clinical feedback between visits, you’ll help move them up the ladder of patient activation.
Track Your Success
Once you start implementing patient retention measures, track your progress to see what’s working and what’s not. Ask your patients for feedback regarding their satisfaction and loyalty. Soliciting feedback from your patients will give you specific, measurable insights that you can use to improve your retention rate. It will also give you valuable reviews for your website and other review sites to use in attracting new patients.
A targeted patient-retention strategy benefits your patients and your practice. Engaged patients will result in the following benefits for your practice:
- Improved relationships with your patients
- Reduced no-shows and canceled appointments
- Increased revenue
- Increased efficiency for your entire staff